2020 has been nothing short of a rollercoaster of anxiety and uncertainty. The year began with a pandemic that is still affecting every major life decision that anyone is making. While the COVID-19 pandemic is the visible problem, the mental health crisis is the hidden evil that is getting serious as days go by. Businesses have adopted the remote way of working, which has led to a big shift in lifestyle. The lines between work and life are getting blurred and it is taking a serious toll on mental well-being. Front-end functions like Sales, especially remote sales teams are facing the brunt of this transition.
The struggle is real and while the subject of mental health doesn’t get spoken about enough, we thought that it was time to shed some light on this topic and encourage people to have a dialogue. More than once in the last few months close friends have said: "Oh I was much worse in March..." If I was talking to them in March would they have told me "I am doing really badly right now"? Absolutely not.
And also just because they are saying that they were worse in March doesn't mean that they are doing well now. The problem is much more prevalent than people are willing to accept.
This is not me
Spending time, energy and resources on mental health isn't about being weak or strong. We all talk openly about diet and exercise regimes but how often do you exchange notes on meditation routines, self-talk habits or therapist recommendations? Also there is often a false connection between performance and mental health.
The imposter syndrome is real and prevalent. If you stick around long enough in sales the chances are you will have a bad quarter or two and suddenly it will feel like it's coming crashing down, COVID notwithstanding of course.
A dream panel
To start with, we reached out to a few key sales leaders and mental health activists in the sales community. Our first conversation was with David Weiss, from Outreach. David is a leader of high-performing teams, a sales coach of people with big dreams, and a runs a podcast for people in sales or a related field and designed to help with the struggles of the profession and how to manage the mental aspects.
Then we spoke to Freshworks and together, set up a dream panel with Jeff Risely, Belal Batrawy, and Frank B Mengert, who were as excited as we were, to speak and share valuable insights from their own experiences on the topic of mental health for sales. All of them have been sales reps and now leaders in their own fields.
The response to our discussions on this topic has been overwhelming and the conversations were very real. During the webinar, we saw over 50 questions coming in from our registrants. We were privileged to help sales reps open up on some close personal issues and questions that are bothering the remote sales teams during this pandemic.
This blog is an extension of our panel discussion and other unanswered questions that are critical to the mental wellbeing of the remote sales teams.
A few key takeaways to deal with your mental health:
- Focus on the journey, not the destination - outcomes aren't in your control in sales, focus instead on doing your best and improving various aspects of what you can control
- Don't let outcomes define your self-worth
- Practise listening - listen to your mental & physical signals
- You aren't alone in this - create your peer-group and you will realize that labeling your feelings and thoughts will help ease some of the pain
- It's not black or white - you aren't going to feel significantly better or worse suddenly
- Replace 'because' with 'and' - It is easy to say that "I am feeling stressed because I didn't meet my quota" but you are skipping an important step in the cognitive chain - thoughts
- This too shall pass - one thing that was common across all the people I have interviewed on this topic is that while they have seen dark times they have also experienced sunny spots.
#1 “It’s difficult for any sales rep to consistently hit numbers, especially during such times. This is taking a toll on my mental health and motivation. What can I do to bounce back - both from a sales perspective and mentally?”
Belal shares how common this feeling of anxiety with not hitting targets is, especially in sales. Salespeople are often micro-managed, promised commission checks that are not delivered, given unrealistic targets and other bad experiences that are universal. Belal also believes that the idea of bouncing back is a false paradigm since human lives are always filled with ups and downs. So he says to not take the judgement of how you do your job to determine your worth.
“Sales as a job is often judged by the destination and not the journey.” Belal says.
He further advises that at times like this when you are put down, always detach yourself from the outcome. You have to understand that you can’t always be in control of the outcome, so much of the sales cycle happens beyond the factors that can not be controlled by a salesperson. So a better outlook on the issue would be to make a conscious choice of giving your best at what you do, putting people first, practice integrity, courage and moral character instead of wins and deals closed. This builds a better long-term brand for a salesperson than temporary numbers. This will also make salespeople more embracing towards the low points in their careers.
Jeff also talks about how there is a need for salespeople to consider a shift in their mindsets.
Due to COVID-19 and remote work, the process that salespeople have been following has become useless. Rather a more well-rounded approach is to think of what you want to become and what that person would do on a regular basis to achieve it. If you want to become a sales manager, you have to see and follow what successful sales managers have been doing in this time of crisis. Jeff also warns how anxiety gets worse each time you focus inwards. Being empathetic and true to your customers can help you manage your anxiety better.
Frank talks about how companies manage to celebrate top performers at the end of every sales month but focus very little on the low performers and talk to them or motivate them better. Frank also likes to challenge that the low performers didn’t put enough work in, they could have put more work in.
#2 “How should I manage the unfair expectations of my bosses during the pandemic? I’m not even sure they understand what we are going through mentally and the efforts we are putting.”
The pandemic and the subsequent financial crisis are not the seller's fault but it has become the problem they have to face going in every day. Belal also shares about how many companies have changed their revenue forecast for the year but have not changed their sales targets for the same. Also, the most important foreword to the mental health crisis is to understand that not all sales managers are the best trained to address mental health in their own teams. The criteria for becoming a sales manager is to be a top sales rep in the company and not someone who has better people skills or the ability to address mental health in depth.
#3 "Handling rejections on a day-to-day basis.”
Know it’s not personal - Though sales has an emotional component, it is important to understand that the rejection is rarely personal and more often a business decision by an organisation. Taking every rejection as a personal blow will make salespeople less confident and more inefficient. As salespeople, we have to look beyond business rejections and reach more people who potentially could benefit from our service or product.
Compartmentalise - Separating personal and professional identities is an essential and continuing function that salespeople need to practice actively. This separation will help you push rejections aside and move forward onto the next call. Taking this rejection forward into the next call often adversely affects the salesperson and the chances of closing another deal.
Identify what you can control - A salesperson is expected to be on top of every situation. This expectation carried out for a longer time makes a person seek out control actively and obsessively. This control, when broken during a rejection, hits salespeople like an avalanche. A salesperson should always take a step back during rejection and analyse the rejection. If the rejection was a result of things that they never had any control over, they must be able to take it lightly and move on.
#4 “As someone who's been laid off due to 'outside' conditions, how did you handle losing your job and business?”
Frank talks about his own experience of being laid off; how he was a top performer and one day everything changed when he was fired. This led to a cycle of self-blaming and self-doubt coupled with the anxiety of paying bills and an uncertain future. For him, it felt like his world had come to an end.
But as Frank says now, “It is okay and absolutely normal to go through these feelings. In difficult times like these, it is never going to be easy for either side. Deal with your emotions, sort things out internally, and start to think what’s next? Focus all your energy on how you can bounce back and move forward. It doesn’t happen overnight. But eventually, it works.”
While we have been able to share a couple of thought-provoking questions from the webinar, there is a lot more that has been discussed and reflected upon. The speakers have shared in-depth knowledge on topics like the signs of declining mental health, self-talk, handling job loss, social media influence on stress levels, practicing work-life balance, and top tips to manage anxiety for remote selling teams in the webinar session.
If there is anyone in your network, who you believe can benefit from these real-life experiences go ahead and share the recording with them.
Wingman is a real-time sales coaching tool that gives sales reps the right information at the right time, while they are on a call. It automatically joins sales calls and based on the conversation, cue-cards show up to help sales reps with customer objections, questions, and behaviour suggestions. It also assists reps in taking better notes and summarize calls by allowing them to bookmark key moments during the call, in real-time.
Interested to learn how Wingman can help your remote teams operate efficiently? Talk to our experts.